The Chicago Times
Fear and confusion as al-Shabab fighters overran a U.S. airfield in Kenya
by Thomas Gibbons-Neff, Eric Schmitt, Charlie Savage and Helene Cooper
Armed with rifles and explosives, about a dozen al-Shabab fighters destroyed an American surveillance plane as it was taking off and ignited an hourslong gunfight this month on a sprawling military base in Kenya that houses U.S. troops. By the time al-Shabab was done, portions of the airfield were burning and three Americans were dead.
Surprised by the attack, U.S. commandos took around an hour to respond. Many of the local Kenyan forces, assigned to defend the base, hid in the grass, while other U.S. troops and support staff were corralled into tents, with little protection, to wait out the battle. It would require hours to evacuate one of the wounded to a military hospital in Djibouti, roughly 1,500 miles away.
The brazen assault at Manda Bay, a sleepy seaside base near the Somali border, on Jan. 5, was largely overshadowed by the crisis with Iran after the killing of that country’s most important general two days earlier and is only now drawing closer scrutiny from Congress and Pentagon officials.